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NBA Playoffs: Grizzlies/Spurs Game 2 Preview: Mad Grizzlies

In tonight's Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, the Grizzlies take the court in San Antonio tonight to try to swing home court advantage in their favor. They're going to have to do things a little differently than they did in Game 1.

Stephen Dunn

You know what happened in Game 1 by now. The Grizzlies came out thinking they’d have a Sunday afternoon to play some basketball and bask in the glow of the Western Conference Finals, and maybe go look at the Alamo and eat some great Tex-Mex food.

Instead, they got their heads stomped on. The Spurs beat them by 22 points, made 14 three pointers out of 29 attempts, and held Zach Randolph to 2 points and 7 rebounds on 1–8 shooting[1]. The Grizzlies over-helped, couldn’t stop Tony Parker from creating, couldn’t stop anybody from doing anything, and at the other end, everything (except Quincy Pondexter corner 3’s) came up empty.

I’m not really sure what to say about “The Keys to the Game” for Game 2. There’s not a single thing the Grizzlies did any worse than anything else in Game 1, except defending the three pointer incredible poorly. In Game 2 the most important thing the Grizzlies can do is come back out and reassert their nature: tough, tenacious, unafraid, in the zone. They have to regain the composure they’ve shown throughout the playoffs so far, and prove to the world that they’re not rattled, and that they’re not checked out now that they’ve made it to this point of the season.

I’m sure the guys on the team know that a lot of people believe in them. Mike Conley is on the cover of Sports Illustrated[2], the guys over at Grantland have probably written more about the Griz than about anyone other than LeBron James, three guys were All-Defense and Marc Gasol is the Defensive Player of the Year. These dudes know who they are and know where they are and know what kinds of things are being said about them.

Did they let it get to them a little bit in the long break before Game 1, maybe just a little?

So here are the “Keys to the Game” for Game 2.

  • Settle down and play Memphis Grizzlies basketball. Game 1 was not the way this team plays. (Okay, well, maybe we saw some of those problems at other points during the regular season, but not like that.) I’m tired of saying “grind it out” but that’s exactly what the Grizzlies need to do tonight. “We in the mud,” says Z-Bo. Make sure the Spurs stick there tonight.
  • Get Tony Allen to stop helping off his man. One way to do that is to stick him on Tony Parker, a move I would wholeheartedly support. And, you know, while you’re at it, get everybody else to play better defense, too.
  • Establish Z-Bo early. Zach Randolph has to be a factor for the Grizzlies to be a factor. Getting the Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph high-low action working is going to be huge for the Grizzlies, and the Spurs are going to use Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter to do everything possible to keep it from happening. If Gasol can come out early and his some of his patented elbow “jumpers” (which are really set shots) and spread the post defense out a little bit, that would be huge. The Spurs will adjust, obviously, but starting off on the right foot could be key.
  • Make Tony Parker work for everything. In Game 1, Parker got into the lane and basically did whatever he wanted. If Parker is going to be able to use his abilities to create for himself and the rest of his team without any resistance from the Grizzlies, the Grizzlies are sunk. Parker has to be contained.

Either way, it’s going to be a better game than Game 1. The Grizzlies have rebounded from bad losses all year and especially in the postseason. They just forget about it and move on to the next game. With any luck, they won’t forget about Game 1—they’ll still be mad about it and they’ll come out swinging. If there’s an operating principle for the 2012–2013 season, it’s this: Mad Grizzlies are the best Grizzlies.

  1. If you’re into efficiency ratings, for God’s sake don’t look at Zach Randolph’s ORtg from Game 1. Hint: it was 46.

  2. Apparently the Conley SI cover is “regional,” which, as far as I can tell, means it’s only available at 2 out of every 7 bookstores in Memphis.